Human-Computer Interaction and Web Design

Alan Dix
Lancaster University, UK

Chapter 3 in Handbook of Human Factors in Web Design. Robert W. Proctor and Kim-Phuong L. Vu (eds). Lawrence Erlbaum.


On a Web site for a U.K. airline, there are two pull-down menus, one for U.K. departure airports and the other for non-U.K. destinations. When you select a departure airport the destination menu changes so that only those with flights from the chosen departure airport are shown (see Fig. 3.1). There are several U.K. airports within a few hours’ drive of my home, so I wanted to know where I can fly from in order to get to Faro. The Web site did not support this and I had to try each accessible U.K. airport individually.

Now in retrospect it seems like common sense that a reasonable thing to want to ask is "how do I get to Faro?", but the designer simply thought logically: "from" then "to". The execution was technically flawless. Many similar sites fail completely on some browsers due to version-specific scripts. This worked well, but did the wrong thing. The site was well designed aesthetically and technically, but failed to deliver an experience that matched what a reasonable user might expect.

Human­computer interaction (HCI) is about understanding this sort of situation and about techniques and methods that help avoid these problems. This chapter is split into three main parts. First we will look at the nature of human—computer interaction as an academic and design discipline and at its roots, development, and links to other disciplines. Then we will look at a typical HCI design process and the way different techniques and methods contribute to it. Finally, we will look at more particular HCI issues for the Web. Of course, this whole book is about human factors and the Web, and some issues are covered in detail in other chapters; hence this latter part of the chapter tries to complement these. This chapter concludes with a brief view of the directions in which HCI is developing within the context of the Web and related networked and mobile technologies.


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Full reference:
A. Dix (2004). Chapter 3: Human-Computer Interaction and Web Design. In Handbook of Human Factors in Web Design. Robert W. Proctor and Kim-Phuong L. Vu (eds). Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 28-47


Fig 3.1. Airport selection on a Web site.


Fig 3.9. A virtual fridge door on the Web   |   zoom image



Work gathered for this chapter was originally supported by a number of sources including the UK EPSRC funded projects EQUATOR ( and DIRC (

Several illustrations are taken with permission from Human-Computer Interaction, Third Edition, A. Dix, J. Finlay, G. D. Abowd, and R. Beale, Prentice-Hall, 2004.

Alan Dix 11/7/2004